Palm trees and tropical breezes may be a world away, but a new fitness class is bringing an island feel to the area.
Hulaerobics, offered at Washington Township Rec West, is an island-inspired workout that incorporates hula dance steps into a fun aerobic fitness class.
“We take the basic steps of hula dance and turn it into a creative cardio class,” instructor Olohana Strong said. “The class is used to strengthen our core, quads, hamstrings and glutes. It’s mixed with cardio exercise, hula dance instruction and meditation.”
Hula dance is a way of life for Strong, who was born in Western Samoa. She moved to Hawaii when she was a toddler and learned native hula dances from Samoa, Hawaii, Tahiti and New Zealand throughout her childhood. She became a professional hula dancer when she was 21 and traveled extensively across the country as a performer.
“Hula dance is not only movement, but it is the art of spreading the Aloha Spirit,” Strong said. “The Aloha Spirit is the act of kindness and love toward one another the island way. When we dance, we dance from the heart with love.”
When her family moved to Dayton, she brought the aloha spirit with her and became determined to share it with others.
“I have always wanted to teach hula,” she said. “It became my passion to start sharing the aloha spirit this January when I asked myself, ‘How can I be a blessing and do my part in Dayton Strong to defeat hate with love?’”
Hulaerobics classes began a few months ago, as did Strong’s new business – Olohana’s Polynesian Dance.
The hulaerobics class is designed for those 16 and older. Current participants range in age from their 20s to their 70s. The class is a fun fitness alternative for Sybil Latham, 75.
“You’re not bouncing up and down and you can work at your own pace which is nice,” Latham said. “And the instructor is very supportive.”
Grown-ups aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the aloha spirit as there is also a Kids Hula Dance class available for those 5-12 years old.
The kids’ class consists of learning the basic steps of hula and the native dances from several islands. Participants “graduate” from eight different hula skirts, each one representing a different island. In order to graduate, the students take an assessment consisting of performing basic steps, naming the basic steps in Hawaiian, performing all dances they have learned as well as demonstrating an understanding of the island the skirt represents.
“It is such a unique and healthy way to help a child reach goals, they learn discipline, honor and learn the culture,” Strong said. “Once they graduate from their final skirt, they are able to perform in professional hula shows.”
Whether they decide to perform or simply participate for fun and fitness, the philosophy remains the same: “Fill your heart, mind, body and soul with the Aloha Spirit.”
“I strive to leave a legacy behind to pass onto my daughter’s generation and my future grandchildren,” Strong said.
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